Coleridge and the Inspired Word

Coleridge and the Inspired Word

Anthony John Harding
Copyright Date: 1985
Pages: 204
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    Coleridge and the Inspired Word
    Book Description:

    Beginning with an exposition of Coleridge's double role as theologian and poet, Anthony Harding analyses the development and transmission of Coleridge's views of inspiration - both biblical and poetic - and provides a history of his theological and poetic ideas in their second generation, in England especially in the work of F.D. Maurice and John Sterling, and in America in that of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Harding argues that Coleridge's emphasis on the human integrity of the scriptural authors provided his contemporaries with a poetics of inspiration that seemed likely to restore to literature a "biblical" sense of the divine as a presence in the world. Coleridge's treatment of biblical inspiration is thus an important contribution to Romantic poetics as well as to biblical scholarship. His concept of inspiration is also linked directly to his literary theory and thus to the current debate over the reader's relation to text and author.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6403-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    In the “Melchester” section of Thomas Hardy’sJude the Obscure,Sue Bridehead, Jude’s well-read and unconventional cousin, offers to help him in his study of the Bible by making for him a “newNew Testament,” similar to one she used to read. The books of the New Testament would be separated one from the other and rearranged in their order of composition, so that Thessalonians would come first, then the other Epistles, then the Gospels. Sue’s idea strikes Jude as rather sacrilegious, and to most modern readers who are not biblical scholars the thought of a “rearranged” New Testament is...

  6. I Beyond Mythology: Coleridge and the Legacy of the Enlightenment
    (pp. 29-57)

    Great as was Herder’s service to biblical studies, his very achievement in rendering the Bible more accessible, because more historical and “human,” set an almost insoluble problem for the development of a Romantic poetics of inspiration. On the one hand, Herder denied that any poet or prophet had direct apprehension of what was in the mind of the Divine Being. Language was a divine gift, poetic language pre-eminently so, but “whatever was given to the most godlike men, even through a higher influence, to feel and experience in themselves, was still human.”¹ On the other hand, the true poet was...

  7. II Beyond Nature: Naturphilosophie and Imagination
    (pp. 58-73)

    All of Coleridge’s mature writing on inspiration was marked by the conviction that inspiration, being—whatever else it may be—an eminently human state, must always be viewed in relation to the human context in which it is experienced. Coleridge was attracted by Schelling’s philosophy and by its high a priori explanation of the nature of inspiration. Nevertheless, there runs through Coleridge’s middle period (say 1802–20) and beyond into the “Letters” the deepseated belief that a person reading a text, especially and pre-eminently the Bible, is first and foremost a human being called into relationship with another human being....

  8. III Inspiration and Freedom: The “Letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures”
    (pp. 74-94)

    All Coleridge’s writing on the Bible, up to and including the “Letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures,” was directed towards the removal of various obstacles the Protestant churches had unwittingly placed between the individual reader and the human witness of Scripture. The main objects of his attack were literalism, the doctrine that the Scriptures do not err, and the more recent perversion of miraclenarratives into “proofs” or “evidences” of the truth of Christianity. First among English thinkers, says Herbert L. Stewart, Coleridge realized the importance of “that most pregnant distinction between saying that Scriptureisthe word of God...

  9. IV The Broad Church, F. D. Maurice, and Coleridge’s “Letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures”
    (pp. 95-112)

    When Coleridge died in 1834 the “Letters on the Inspiration of the Scriptures” were still unpublished, and they remained so until 1840, when Henry Nelson Coleridge brought out his edition of the work. This was the edition which gave the “Letters” their present, rather apologetic name,Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit,and in doing so sanctioned the aura of illicit speculation that remained with the work for the rest of the nineteenth century. To the small but noteworthy group of thinkers who read the “Letters” in manuscript they were known simply as “Letters on Inspiration.”

    The reticence with which even...

  10. V John Sterling and the Universal Sense of the Divine
    (pp. 113-137)

    Despite his association with J. C. Hare, and the fact that Hare was his first biographer, John Sterling demands to be treated separately from the group generally associated with the term “Broad Church,” because Sterling’s knowledge of biblical criticism increasingly led him towards disillusionment with what he saw as the parochial and irrelevant squabbles of the Victorian Church. He was an intelligent and trenchant critic of the churches, and especially of their refusal to treat German Higher Criticism as anything more than a malevolent attempt to subvert true faith. To Sterling, an eager student of Coleridge and Schleiermacher, such obstinacy...

  11. VI The Divinity in Man: Transcendentalism as Organized Innocence
    (pp. 138-166)

    Inspiration enjoyed a high place on the agenda of the New England Transcendentalists, embracing as it did two of their most persistent concerns: the human mind in its relations with God and Spirit, and the need for future poets of the young nation to “make it new,” to escape from the servile imitation of European models. The feeling that new or at least rediscoverable sources of inspiration were needed for a new kind of literature gave the Transcendentalists’ debates an urgency virtually unknown in England.

    The topic announced for discussion at a meeting of the Hedge Club, or Symposium Club,...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-178)
  13. Index
    (pp. 179-187)